My New Hobby, plus Home Brew #8

As mentioned in my post about 2017 goals, I’d got it into my head that I didn’t want to wait until I was retired before doing something I’ve always fancied doing – that of learning to play a musical instrument!

With my mind made up, I struggled to think of what instrument that someone like me (ie non-musical) could easily learn, which didn’t require formal/expensive lessons. Fortunately, I mentioned my dilemma to my sister who announced that coincidentally, she had just started to learn to play an instrument….

So, that’s how I came to buy a ukulele!

Yes, it’s like a little guitar!

TFS wasn’t too far off when he suggested a banjo in the comments, in that it is a stringed instrument!

For those who don’t know (which included me, before I bought it), a ukulele does resemble a small guitar, except it’s got just 4 strings, not 6 like a guitar. The version I bought is a Concert ukulele.

How Will I Learn?

YouTube will be my teacher – there are loads of free ukulele lessons online. Thus far, I’ve just been learning a few chords and how to strum – I’m just sooooo happy that something sounding vaguely like a tune is being produced! Wow, who knew I had it in me – I certainly didn’t! 🙂

Now, I’m not aiming to be an expert or to be able to perform in public. I’m finding it both fun and relaxing just picking it up and practising for a few minutes at a time. My fingers hurt a little but callouses are already starting to develop.

The total cost of this new hobby was around £60, including case and tuner – I’m very glad I decided to go for it!

Another Home Brew Success

Home Brewing was a new hobby which I took up back in September 2014 – like any good hobby, it’s still going strong and I still get a kick out of brewing my own beer!

However, my last home brew update was back in April as my brewing timetable was interrupted due to having family staying for most of the summer.  I was able to resume at the end of October, although the brew wasn’t really ready until last month.

So the kit I made this time was Milestone’s Black Pearl Stout – yes, I’m partial to a bit of Guinness and wondered if I could do a fair imitation of a decent stout!

The kit produced 42 bottles (21 litres/36 pints) and was free – it was a birthday present.  As I spent £5 on a new tin opener (to open the big cans of malt), the cost of these beers work out at £0.12 per bottle or £0.14 a pint! Not just happy hour, happy days! 🙂

Alcohol strength just under 4%, obviously it’s not a patch on Guinness but..it’s got a good ‘stouty’ flavour and the most important thing of all, it pours with a decent frothy head! I’d notch that as a success, plus my friends and ex-colleagues like it too!

I’ve now done 7 different beer kits and one cider kit. I had originally been planning to brew (and document) 10 different kits and then just reverting to brewing my favourites.

However, there are so many different kits out there, I may just keep going and trying new ones that catch my eye and picking up old favourites when I see them on offer.

Alcohol Budget

Whilst not a specific goal of mine, but as mentioned in a comment I posted on FireinLondon’s post about his spending on alcohol, I’m going to try to reduce my ‘Alcohol At Home’ budget to zero this year…

No, I’m not turning teetotal – this is just to stop me spending money on alcohol for home consumption. This should encourage me to continue brewing my own and it helps that I received 3 homebrew kits for Christmas!

I should also drink the stuff that’s in the house already, which at the last count included 3 large bottles of gin (leaving gifts), plus various other (unopened) bottles of both spirits and wine.

Barring an outrageous alcohol problem, this should all last me a while (not just til end of Feb, FiL haha) – even though I’m not working, I’m still keeping to my not drinking on ‘school nights’, as I don’t want to descend into bad habits!

Anyway, have a great weekend all!

A Little More Giving + Home Brew #7

Whilst not specifically one of my 2016 goals, I mentioned that I intend to regularly donate a little more to charity.  I have opened a CAF Charity account so will be topping this up on a monthly basis.

Of course, I could have started donating regularly without opening such an account but the CAF account allows me to donate anonymously as I dislike being contacted by charities and don’t want to feel like I’m being ‘guilt tripped’ into handing over more money after I’ve made a donation.

I don’t have a lot of time to volunteer, so donating a bit of money is all I can really do right now. I already make adhoc donations throughout the year, eg sponsor friends on charity runs, Movember sponsorships, Christmas giving tree etc. These monthly donations will be on top of my usual donations.

Tawcan’s Christmas post made me think again about how lucky I am to be in a position where I can put relatively large amounts of money aside towards FI and early retirement when there are lots of people less fortunate than myself who are not living happy lives. Other bloggers such as TheFireStarter and Huw @FFB40 (also Organised Redhead) donate regularly too so it’s about time I put my hand in my pocket more often and do my little bit. Others donate their time, some others donate blood, which is something I don’t do (although I do donate unwanted clothing and books etc).

One Charity or Many?

There are many charities I feel strongly about – close members of my family have been affected by cancer and heart conditions so I like to support those charities. Children, the homeless, the hungry, the elderly – I want to help these too but would it be better to just concentrate on a single charity or help as many as possible?

Perhaps I could just choose one charity and help that one but I’m not sure I could just stick with just the one as I wouldn’t know which one to help and would feel bad about not being able to help others.

However, what I should do perhaps is to whittle down on the number of charities I want to help so I can donate a little more to my chosen ones – I can always select other charities next time but in the main, I want to try to help smaller and more local charities.

Warm Fuzzy Feeling

Whilst it makes me feel good (and a little less selfish) to donate, the amount I’m donating is really quite pitiful in the scheme of things – I am still in my wealth accumulation phase, only really at the start of my saving/investing journey so I’m very much thinking of me and my own priorities first.

My donation by  itself is unlikely to change anything but I’d like to think that it just goes towards some ‘greater good’ and hopefully not squandered like certain charities.

I’d like to think that when I do get to FI and no longer have to work full-time, I will be able to donate some of my time and energies towards charitable causes.

Anyway, until then, this is the small way in which I’ll try to help out.

Winter/Spring Brew

I wasn’t organised enough last October to put a ‘Christmas brew’ on so I didn’t do this festive kit until January – named after Santa’s favourite reindeer, ‘Dasher the Flasher‘! 🙂

The brew was just about ready for me to take a few bottles to the recent FIRE Escape gathering in Wales, but some bottles still aren’t quite ready so this brew has taken a while to condition.

FireEscapelabel1

Customised beer labels, no less!

The kit produced 44 bottles (just over 21 litres/37 pints). As the kit cost me £23, this works out as £0.52 per bottle or £0.62 a pint.

The beer is very clear and pours a good head (yay!). Not very bitter at all, with some sweet tones, a bit like liquorice (according to Lou).

dasher

Alcohol strength just over 4% so very drinkable over a weekend!

I think I prefer this brew to the last one I made and certainly, I would try to put this one on again in the winter (the kits are only available then).

I’ve now done 6 beer kits and one cider kit. I was planning to brew (and document) 4 more beer kits before I revert to my favourites and just brew those.

However, with finances a little tighter this month, I’m going to brew a kit that I’ve done previously (Woodford’s Wherry), only because I have one spare.

A bit more pressure this time round as it won’t just be colleagues and friends sampling this one, it’ll be the first time my family will be able to try the fruits of my labours….eek!

Next proper home brew update in that case will probably be late summer.

In the meantime…CHEERS! 🙂

Premium Bonds Win, plus Home Brew #6


Unbelievable yes, but I got another premium bond win, my second this year! Yay!

prembonds

Ok, so I only won £25 but prior to my win in February, I hadn’t won anything in years!

It could well be just a massive coincidence that I’ve started winning ever since I’ve been regularly buying more premium bonds – my holding is tiny though, only £2,135 and according to this premium bond calculator, if I have ‘average luck’, I would expect to win just £25 over a year. Let’s hope I’ll be VERY lucky at some point in the future! In the meantime, I will chuck my £25 into the investment pot.

As premium bonds carry no risk (apart from erosion due to inflation) I will continue with my small top ups. I don’t have a lot of cash in my total portfolio so this forms part of that allocation.

Home Brew #6

Time for another home brew update! The brew I made this time came from a Vienna Red Lager kit.

After brewing cider last time round, I was really looking forward to making my brew of choice!

I started this one at the beginning of October, the instructions were easy to follow, although there was no info on how much sugar was needed when bottling, so I just went for my usual 1.5 teaspoons/bottle, which turned out to be right!

I managed to get 43 bottles (just over 21 litres/37 pints) and it’s another free brew as the kit was a birthday present!

After around 1.5 months of conditioning, the beer is fairly clear – the red colour makes it look like an ale but its flavour is a little sharper, a tangy taste. I’ve managed to get this one to pour with a semi-decent head too, so I’m very happy! Alcohol strength is around 4.3% ABV (although the box said 5% ABV, I couldn’t get it to that level) but after swigging a couple of bottles, it feels a lot stronger, haha!

beer5

I like this beer although in general, I think I prefer ales to lager. As with previous batches, 10 bottles have gone to friends and colleagues for their appreciation! One colleague has already hinted that he’s going to buy me a kit for Christmas – see, there’s a reason why I share the fruits of my labours! 🙂

I have got a kit waiting that I was thinking of doing as a winter warmer. Space is the factor though (30+ bottles of lager and around a dozen of cider still, all sitting in my garage!) so I’ll probably put it on in the new year, unless that lot gets drunk quickly over the next couple of weeks!

[Unfortunately, this was one post where the comments didn’t copy over from Blogger – think I messed up here!]

Busy Weekends and Home Brew #5

Action-Packed Weekends in August

An excellent weekend meeting the likes of Huw, M, TFS, Cerridwen, JimMcG and others in York was followed by a weekend listening to some great music in rain and a muddy field at V Festival!

Fortunately, I didn’t get this muddy!
I’m just so glad I wasn’t camping and must say I felt rather smug on the bus back when it all ended, knowing that I would be sleeping in a nice, clean and dry bed in a hotel! 
We stayed two nights in the hotel and it cost only £50 in total. Food and drink wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be, even at the festival. One of my friends drove down and refused to accept petrol money so I just bought her a bottle of Prosecco as a thank you gift which was gratefully received – sorted!
That weekend of much drinking was followed by a weekend of much eating, when I went down to London to visit family. I have a cousin who lives in Peckham and my aunt and uncle were visiting from Hong Kong so I thought I’d pop down for the weekend.
Ended up visiting places that I’d never been to before, eg Tate Modern Gallery, Shakespeare’s Globe, Hampton Court Palace and also managed to visit Mayfield Lavender Farm. Used my spanking new Oyster Card (which I ordered online) – get me trying to be a Londoner! 🙂
As the crow flies….at Hampton Court Palace
I have to admit that our capital city is great – I’d love to spend more time in the city so that I can experience all it has to offer.
The weather was great, my trains ran on time, there was no Tube strike, so all in all, another excellent weekend! I even managed to have a little chat with my cousin after I found out that he has savings but has not started a pension.  He’s 26 and works freelance so has no company pension to join. I’m going to email him some info and hope he gets the ball rolling!
My costs for this weekend were mostly related to travel (the 3 T’s – train, taxi and tram) – the train fare’s on my credit card so I’ll be paying that next month.
Latest Home Brew
I’m not a big cider drinker but one of my friends bought me a home brew cider kit for Christmas and I’ve finally gotten round to making it! My cider-drinking friends were very happy when I put this brew on as they were finally getting a chance to sample some home brewing that my beer-drinking friends have been enjoying!
The kit was the Strawberry and Pear Cider kit from the Make Your Own range; the instructions were easy to follow, although I had no idea at the time if I was doing it right because the brew didn’t behave in the same way as a beer brew would behave. Plus, it all smelt very different while it was fermenting, so it was very much fingers crossed when it came to bottling!  In all, there were 42 bottles (21 litres / 37 pints), costing me nothing apart from my time and effort (and a bit on my water bill!). 
A little over a month later, the resulting brew is very clear, sparkly, refreshing and not as sweet as commercial fruit ciders. Can’t really taste strawberries or pears, it just tastes….fruity! It’s a dark pink in colour, although it looks a lot darker in the photo I’ve taken.
I have no idea what the alcohol content is as there was nothing about using a hydrometer in the instructions, but it shouldn’t be more than 4.7%. I’m trying a couple of bottles this weekend to test…haha!
All in all, I’m quite pleased with this. However, as I’m not a cider lover, I can’t see me drinking many of these but I hope my friends will enjoy it – I’ll be turning up at house parties with the stuff!
For my next brew, I’ll be back brewing beer, this time a kit given to me for my birthday so more free drinks!
This weekend?
After three back-to-back weekends packed with social activities, this weekend, I have absolutely NOTHING planned and I’m really happy about that! Looking forward to spending much time in my pyjamas catching up on blog reading haha!
Whatever you’re doing (or not), have a good one all!